Association Heads Suspension Unlawful–Mak Law School

2197 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Law dons contend that it was unconstitutional and unlawful for Management to suspend or otherwise purport to discipline any leader of staff association or union for any act done in furtherance of their staff association or union interests.

Makerere University Law School has advised the Vice Chancellor to lift the suspension of association leaders in the university. This is contained in a four page documents endorsed by 20 law dons in the university.

They argue that the suspension of Dr. Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, the Chairperson Makerere University Academic Staff Association- MUASA, Bennet Magara, the Chairperson Makerere Administrative Staff Association -MASA and his General Secretary, Joseph Kalema is illegal and unlawful.

The trio was suspended by the University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe on grounds of indiscipline and incitement of staff with a view of making the institution ungovernable. In his suspension letter, Prof. Nawangwe alleged that "security reports" had implicated the trio guilty for inciting staff to disrupt university activities.
Trouble for the trio is said to have started when they wrote to the University Secretary asking Management to stop meddling in the affairs of staff associations. 

Now, the Law dons contend that it was unconstitutional and unlawful for Management to suspend or otherwise purport to discipline any leader of staff association or union for any act done in furtherance of their staff association or union interests.
They argue that the allegations against the association leaders stem from the fact that they were informing management that the leadership and affairs of staff associations are a mandate of the relevant members of those associations. 

They also note that MUASA had addressed a number of demands to the University Council, which include salary arrears, a dispute on the membership of Bruce Kabaasa Thomas Tayebwa on the University Council and irregularities in the dismissal of some critical academic staff. 

They also contend that in the course of interactions and exchanges between MUASA and management regarding these issues, the Vice Chancellor indefinitely suspended Dr. Deus Kamunyu as a Lecturer in the Department of Forestry, Biodiversity and Tourism.

"We wish to state that every Ugandan has a constitutional right of freedom of speech, and expression and freedom of association which includes 'freedom to form and join associations, or unions including trade unions and political and other civic organizations," the Law dons state in reference to article 29 of the Constitution.

Speaking on behalf of the law dons, Prof. John Jean Barya, an expert in constitutional and Labor laws, explained that staff associations are established under sections 68 and 93 of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, 2001 as amended.

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They further interpret for the Vice Chancellor Section 4 of the Labour Unions Act which provides for collective bargaining, doing any lawful act or participating in industrial action. 

"Section 4 of the act is very categorical and provides that an employer shall not; interfere with, restrain or coerce an employee in the exercise of his or her rights guaranteed under this act, interfere with the formation of a labour union or with the administration of a registered organization, discriminate in regard to the hire, tenure or any terms and conditions of employment in order to discourage membership in a Labour union," the law dons state. 

The act also bars the employer to discharge an employee on account of his or her lawful involvement or proposed involvement in the activities of a labor union including his or her participation in industrial action…

Prof. Barya says nobody including the university management can challenge the legality of MUASA, MASA and NUEI. 

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He says the suspension of the leaders of MUASA and MASA is a direct attack on not only the freedom of association of University staff but also an attack on academic freedom guaranteed by the constitution. 

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About the author

Davidson Ndyabahika
Davidson Ndyabahika is a Journalism major from Makerere University and is passionate about investigative and data journalism with special interest in feature story telling.

He has gone through digital and multi-media training both at Ultimate Multimedia Consult, and has attended Data Journalism Sessions at ACME to enrich his capacity in data journalism.

Davidson has previously freelanced with The Campus Times, The Observer, Chimp reports and URN. He is currently reporting under Education. He is also passionate about reporting on environment, health, crime and political satire writing.

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